Coins or Wealth

Much of the life of an adventurer revolves around the accumulation of vast sums of treasure, long lost riches of ancient kings and great heroes from ages long forgotten. This brings up the question: “How do I keep track of all that?” To this there are two answers that I will discuss in this post count it all, and use an abstract system.

Count it All
The Gold Piece or “GP” is the standard unit of currency in D&D as well as PFRPG. Using GP as a basis for counting character wealth is a pretty good system it has numerous advantages.
* Immersive – You can have in-character discussions about gold pieces and the value in gp of various items in the world.
* Rewarding – People love getting big numbers and lots of points. “You find an ornate necklace with an inlaid black starfire gem and after examination you determine its worth to be 1,500gp” is a pretty good thing to hear.
* Easily understood – Anyone can count and the base 10 conversion rate between copper-silver-gold-platinum is very simple.
* Precise – You can tell just how much money your character has because you have a set amount of GP in their inventory

The Wealth Score
The wealth score is used in d20 Modern and True 20. It is basically a fluid bonus that represents your character’s purchasing power which is increased by finding treasure and using your profession while it is decreased by spending more than your wealth. Purchases smaller than your wealth do not change your wealth score and do not require a roll you can simply afford them. This system has several distinct advantages over using a monetary system like the GP

* Easier – You don’t have to track every single little purchase so a wealth score speeds up game play. Not many people want to spend a gaming session balancing their character’s checkbook, the wealth system assumes that the character manages his finances during downtime so the player doesn’t have to worry about it in detail.

* More Flexible – The inherent abstraction of wealth adds more flexibility to character options. Since you don’t lose any wealth for purchases that are under your bonus you can buy useful items without diminishing your ability to afford better weapons and armor. Also since you get to make a wealth check you can often afford things that in a hard currency system would be simply out of reach.

* Mechanically matching – The wealth system provides a modifier to the equation d20 + modifier and as such matches its mechanics with the rest of the game.

* Better representation – While the wealth system is less precise than using GP I feel that it is more representative since many small purchases can be overlooked by the nature of the mechanic. When using GP you are supposed to account for everything, but often the small purchases such as gate tolls, food, inn stays are all overlooked for the sake of simplicity and not diminishing players’ ability to buy better gear.

Both systems offer some unique advantages though neither is without disadvantage. GP’s disadvantage is that it sometimes takes a while to tally up expenditures especially when starting a high level character who has thousands of GP to spend on gear. My biggest problem with wealth is that from my experiences it is easily exploitable if one specs for wealth and has the quirk of “I can buy infinite (small item).”


~ by katallos on June 24, 2010.

One Response to “Coins or Wealth”

  1. I can’t imagine not tracking each gold piece although the rules for living expense levels from 3.5 come in handy. I like to use those to keep from having to pay for each drink in the local tavern. As for the rest, players have to pay for each of those infinite small items. 🙂

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